Affordances can be defined as “all actions that are physically possible” (Google). This term has become more prevalent in society due to the increasing role media plays in society. It’s prevalence is dependent upon its popularity. Although many might think that the increasing prevalence of media is due to what many people call ‘interactive’ media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Manovich takes a different stance. There are many forms of media besides ‘modern’ media that are interactive; for example, a book, due to it being interactive when one is flipping through the pages. This form of mis-termed ‘interactive’ media has four affordances that are defined by Murray: participatory, procedural, spatial, and encyclopedic. These affordances of media allow for many user-friendly accommodations that are slowly changing the human conscious to where it could be argued that media is almost too human.
Social media has many interactive and user friendly procedures. With this idea in mind, this form of media has affordances that allow people to enjoy it. The first affordance, participatory, is termed the ‘platform’ of social media because without it this type of media would not exist. For example, if no one were to go on Facebook, then Facebook would not be a popular social site in this world. In fact, Smith states that approximately two-thirds of online adults (66%) use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn. These examples of participatory media have subunits: interacting, community and social connections. With a combination of these three subunits, media users will keep using social media because they feel as though they are having human to human interaction regardless of where they are located from who they are ‘connecting’ to. In fact, Smith states that people use these sites to stay in touch with current friends and family members along with old friends they’ve lost touch with as well as connecting around a shared hobby or interest, making new friends, and reading comments by public figures and finding potential romantic partners. With this in mind, this affordance argues the ideas of humanity and technology. If it allows human-to-human interaction through technology, is it really human-to-human interaction or is it human-to-technology interaction?
Encyclopedic is an affordance that has a pull-factor to keep people on media. With the idea that media has a copious amount of information, it allows for users to have access to endless amounts of it. Therefore, it increases use of media all over the world. This affordance allows people to gain access to keep up with the world and what is going on in it. To allow humans to feel as though they are communicating with people through a site like Facebook when they read a long lost friend’s post of their newest life update or checking Twitter to see what Kim Kardashian is doing today. Both of which are not real human-to-human interactions, but rather, almost a euphoric sense of technological communication.
Procedural is another affordance necessary for modern media. Procedural is composed of rules that allow media users to do things with texts and images. For example, on Facebook one can express their emotions to the entire world by posting on their page and ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ and commenting on others’ posts and sharing other videos and pictures which would not be possible without the procedural affordance. This affordance allows people to feel as though they are having human-to-human interaction. The ability to ‘like’ or ‘love’ someone else’s post on a social media site makes one feel as though they are communicating their thoughts and emotions towards that person when in reality they are communicating with technology.
Spatial is composed of two subunits: metaphors and collapsing distance. Both of these subunits are vital for media interaction. Metaphors are how coding makes things on the screen look realistic like how the folders on google chrome are on-top of each other. Collapsing distance is what allows society to stay connected from other ends of the world. People can communicate and share things to each other regardless of how far away they are from one another. It allows the user to feel as though it is ‘interacting’ with the world from his or her laptop in bed. Hence, the common misconception of the term name.
Jones talks about human-to-human interaction in her article and addresses an important follow up question: will face-to-face communication ultimately diminish because of these new social technologies? She argues that face-to-face interaction must continue to be our main source of communication because it has the ability to satisfy so many more of our inherent social needs due to only 7% of communication is based on the verbal word and that over 90% of communication is based on nonverbal cues such as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. That means 90% of communication cannot be picked up through modern technological ways of communicating like texting and social media. So, why do we feel like texting and social media satisfies our need of human-to-human interaction? This is due to Murray’s affordances: participatory, procedural, spatial, and encyclopedic. These affordances allow humans to communicate to technology and make them feel as though they are communicating to other people. Just like Ong argued that we find it difficult to consider writing to be a technology as we commonly assume printing and the computer to be; we find it hard to believe that social media is not a real human interaction, but rather, technology that simulates human characteristics to make us feel like it is human. This is because the human conscious changed to accommodate writing in everyday life just as the human conscious is changing to accept human-like characteristics of modern technological advancements. We, the human race, are slowly changing our conscious and are not seeing that technology is resembling us due to the familiarity of the characteristics. This is slowly becoming a ‘norm’ in society which makes one wonder what the future will be like.